|A global research consortium|
|Nanotechnology in Detection and Control of Ganoderma Boninense (GB)|
Professor Dr. Nor Azah Yusof
Fungi, which rot and eventually kill oil palm trees, maybe costing some South East Asian countries US$500 million a year. It has been reported that the economic loss caused by this pathogen is between RM225 million to RM1.5 billion (up to 500 million USD) a year. Ganoderma boninense causes both basal stem rot (BSR) and upper stem rot (USR). The diseases remain South East Asia’s most devastating oil palm diseases with direct loss of the stand, reduced yield and the resultant requirement for earlier replanting. Once infected young palms will usually die within 1 or 2 years, while mature trees may survive for slightly longer. Although it has been clearly identified as the main cause of the disease in oil palms, strategies for the early detection and control of G. boninense are still immature. This programme proposes to provide a possible solution through the use of nanotechnology for the effective and efficient detection and control of the pathogen.
Nanosensors and nano-based smart delivery systems could help in the efficient use of agricultural natural resources like water, nutrients and chemicals through precision farming. Through the use of nanomaterials and global positioning systems with satellite imaging of fields, farm managers could remotely detect crop pests or evidence of stress such as drought. Once pest or drought is detected, there would be automatic adjustment of pesticide applications or irrigation levels. Nanosensors dispersed in the field can also detect the presence of plant viruses and the level of soil nutrients. Nanoscale carriers can be utilized for the efficient delivery of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, plant growth regulators, etc. The mechanisms involved in the efficient delivery, better storage and controlled release include: encapsulation and entrapment, polymers and dendrimers, surface ionic and weak bond attachments among others. These mechanisms help improve stability against degradation in the environment and ultimately reduce the amount to be applied, which reduces chemical runoff and alleviates environmental problems. These carriers can be designed in such a way that they can anchor the plant roots to the surrounding soil structure and organic matter. This can only be possible through the understanding of molecular and conformational mechanisms between the delivery nanoscale structure and targeted structures and matter in soil.
An integrated smart sensing system is vital for future sustainability of palm oil industry. Smart farming technology based on wireless network, GIS and Remote Sensing approach can be used to monitor nanosensors embedded in trees, soil and nanocarriers embedded at roots , soil quality and moisture level at the plantation. Furthermore, the GIS and Remote Sensing technologies will be used to provide information on nutrient, soil and water conditions thus indicating whether crops are growing at maximum efficiency. These technologies can improve the nutrients usage efficiency, detect and prevent g. boninense disease, provide better drainage systems and produce an effective monitoring system.
It has been reported that the economic loss caused by fungi is between RM225 million to RM1.5 billion (up to 500 million USD) a year for the whole South East Asia. It is projected with the smart farming system proposed, the problem could be reduced to 50% and will reduce the economic loss.